Along with designing the Angel of Peace sculpture, which overlooks the cemetery from the façade of the memorial chapel, Edmund Amateis was commissioned for an impressive collection of other sculptures. His works include griffins guarding the entrance of the Acacia Life Insurance Company Building in Washington D.C., and the Great Frieze, located on the north wall of the Kansas City Liberty memorial.
The World War II operation overshadowed by D-Day
By Nadia Koehl, Program Services Manager, France
Surrounded by the foliage of olive and cypress trees, a twelve-acre circular plot of land situated in a tranquil area near Draguignan, France, holds the lasting memory of a lesser-known—but monumental—period in World War II history, and of the Americans who gave their lives for the larger cause.
The Rhone American Cemetery—established just days after Allied troops landed and began an offensive against the German Army in southern France and the Rhone Valley on August 19, 1944—commemorates one of the important battles that followed the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. The cemetery derives its name from the Rhone River, whose banks saw much of the combat. Headstones are split into four plots, which frame an oval pond in the middle, and a memorial chapel sits to the north with a vast Angel of Peace sculpture sprawling across its façade with the inscription, “We who lie here died that future generations might live in peace.” Today, 861 American soldiers are buried on-site. They represent every state in the union except North Dakota, but include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Also represented are the 294 soldiers missing in action, their names inscribed upon the Wall of the Missing. For soldiers who were later recovered or identified, the names are now marked with rosettes.
Operation Dragoon was envisioned almost simultaneously with the Normandy Invasion (Operation Overlord), but the combat plans for southern France were tabled until the D-Day Invasion proved successful and the necessary ships and landing crafts were available. Once D-Day triumphed, Operation Dragoon was put into action. The battle began in the wee hours of August 15, 1944, when U.S. troops of the Seventh Army took position and moved in, along with army, air, and naval support from French, British, Greek, and Polish Allied troops. Immediate objectives included seizing the much needed ports of Toulon and Marseille, isolating the German forces (specifically Army Group G) in southern France, and eventually linking with other Allied forces in the north of France. By mid-September, just one month after breaking ground in Draguignan, U.S. forces had traveled some 400 miles and successfully connected with Allied forces from Normandy at Sombernon, and in turn, isolated the rest of the German troops remaining in southern France.
Today, when visitors stroll through the twelve-acre memorial, they are privileged to discover and pay homage to a passage of time that is not forgotten. The Rhone American Cemetery not only commemorates courage and history, but reminds the survivors and teaches new generations about a lesser-known battle that helped change the course of World War II.